Ancient Malaria Killer Gains Spotlight
George Clooney’s recent contraction of malaria together with the publicity talents of Malaria No More (MNM) have put the disease in the spotlight. It causes 1 to 3 million deaths per year, with ninety percent in Africa. Of these, most are young children. With some relatively simple solutions and development of a vaccine, the ancient disease can be eliminated.
George Clooney contracted Malaria following a trip to Sudan unfortunately.
This has raised the profile of the disease, prompting many to ask what Malaria is. The disease is spread by the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. Its symptoms include headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. Untreated, it leads to comas, serious anemia and death.
MNM has played a key role in putting the focus on malaria, and wants to eradicate the health issue by 2015.
MNM co-founder Ray Chambers approached President and Mrs. Bush to host a first-of-its-kind world event on the single disease. As a result, in 2006 the White House Summit on Malaria brought together global government, health, NGO and faith leaders – and gave the health issue much-needed global attention.
The Economist treated the event as a new product launch: “This Thursday George and Laura Bush are due to host a most unusual product launch …. the eradication of malaria. The brains behind the summit, a group of business leaders and philanthropists operating under the auspices of a non-governmental organization called Malaria No More, are convinced that the time is right to launch what they hope will be the next big thing in the giving business." ("The Branding of Malaria," The Economist, December 12, 2006.)
As malaria has gained prominence so has funding to develop a vaccine, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation $10 billion to develop vaccines for the world’s poorest countries over the next ten years. Though malaria is one of the oldest diseases, a vaccine has still yet to be developed. Other available tools to eliminate the disease are basic: long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets (LLINs), education, insecticides, and early diagnosis and treatment.
MNM is also working to ensure each family in Africa has access to the malaria prevention toolkit. In early 2010, MNM provided close to 90,000 mosquito nets to Senegal.
One Tweet by Ashton Kutcher on World Malaria Day 2009 became the most re-tweeted message, resulting in the 90,000 nets for Senegal. With social media changing the face of funding, getting more bed nets is no longer the issue.
The bigger challenge now is distributing tens of thousands of bed nets over a few weeks, rather than thousands in one year. To solve this logistical challenge, MNM has teamed up with the Alliance for Malaria Prevention (AMP), made up of over 40 international organizations who train health workers on how to effectively distribute the bed nets effectively.
In Senegal, a number of organizations including the U.S. Peace Corps, World Vision, the National Malaria Control Program (PNLP), Sumitomo Chemical and local heath workers provided the nets to families, ensuring they were trained in their use. Following the project, nearly 100,000 nets hung in the communities of 265,000 people.
Photo Credit: dullhunk